Material Girl: Gear Update – Marine Corps Marathon Training

“Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl” – Material Girl, Madonna

So most of you who see me IRL know that I have a lot of running gear. Part of the reason is that I am super picky about stuff and I’ll try something for a bit and, then, find something better. I feel, at this point, I have truly found what works for me (until someone comes out with something new). Runners are always asking other runners about what gear they like best and I google reviews of any product I am going to buy before I buy it so I thought I would put this update out there. I can count on one hand the things I love because most things fall into the “stuff that doesn’t totally suck category” but not the “love” category.  Caveat: most of these products work really well for “not your average size” runner. I am not nearly as heavy as I used to be when the struggle was seriously real to find ANYTHING that worked, much less had the luxury of being picky.These are all the things I am currently using in training for the Marine Corps Marathon.

Things I Love:

Ultimate Direction – Ultra Vesta

Ultra Vesta

So, I am in love with this vest. I trained for the Philadelphia Marathon with a Nathan Intensity I got on clearance from REI. That sucker did not have enough pockets and slid all around. I could not adjust it enough but I used it, anyway, because I LOATHE waistpacks. The last thing a 43 year old woman with belly fat, big boobs and a short waist needs is a fricking pack cutting her off right in the middle. Forget the muffin top, I had a whole loaf of bread hanging over the edge after I put on the waistpack with the lovely constriction of the waistband of running shorts (if you want a running waist pack, see me. I have about 4 laying around and I hate every single one of them). When I knew I was going to be training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I went on the search for a new hydration pack. I started with the Orange Mud Hydraquiver. It looks like this:

HydraQuiver Single Barrel Gray

Pretty cool, huh? It has a nice bottle instead of a bladder and you don’t have to suck your liquid through a tube. (which does get gross, by the way). The problem, and I’m just going to say it, is probably because this product was designed for a size 2-6, it just doesn’t work with boobs. I had to put the straps off center, around the boobs, which created major upper arm chafing. Not cool. Plus, that pocket in the side? Not big enough to hold my iPhone 6 in its Otterbox. I wore this pack through several half marathon training runs and even to a half marathon race but I knew there had to be something out there that would not chafe me to the point of bleeding. I think the dual Hydraquiver may be better but I’m not buying another one so someone will just have to try it out and tell me. Enter the Vesta. I read every review of this thing I could find online. I also scoured the internet until I found it ON SALE with a coupon code at Winning.

Why do I love it? Adjustability. Adjustability. Adjustability. It was designed by women for women. The straps are already offset to account for boobs and the front and side straps are totally adjustable. I can lock it down and it won’t move for any of the miles. It also has a gazillion pockets. It holds my gels, my real food snacks, my Skratch in the hydration bladder, an extra bottle of plain water, my iPhone 6 in its Otterbox, my inhaler, my iPod Nano, my lip balm, I can hook my hat to it if I get tired of it and my Base electrolyte salts. When you are on your feet, running for as long as I am (read: I am slow) training for a marathon, you need all the things because you can’t convince people to stand out in the heat, creating aid stations for you. The reviews also said it worked for smaller women, too, because it comes in SIZES (how genius) so I bought the M/L and it is perfect. I am probably going to wear this to MCM because I won’t have Carly and Dimity on bikes, popping up all over the city to hand me my things like I did in Philly.

Oiselle Roga Shorts

Now, y’all know I am part of the Volee and promote Oiselle but I would not say I loved these shorts if I did not (see my posts about Saucony gear during 26Strong). I have these shorts in every color they made (even two pairs of black and blue). I wear these shorts, exclusively, for all of my runs. I still love my luluemon Pace Setter skirts (but they totally changed the style on the new skirts-jerks) and I wear them every once in a while (usually because all the Rogas are dirty or because I want to feel like a girl that day) and Oiselle does not currently make a running skirt. Why do I love these? First, the waistband – they have a yoga pant waistband that does not make the muffin top. Second, the fabric – I don’t know what it is but they are very wicking. Third, the colors – so many colors! Fourth, they are really comfortable. Now, they are short so, if you aren’t comfortable in shorter running shorts, try the longer Roga style. The Mac Rogas don’t cover my underwear so forget those. Fortunately, for me, my legs are the one part of my body I don’t completely detest so I don’t mind wearing shorts. I’m not a huge fan of compression shorts (have you ever tried to get those things back up after using the bathroom in a port-a-potte when you are super sweaty?) and I have Nike Tempo shorts to wear around the house but they ride up between my legs when I try to run in them so the Rogas are where it is at for summer running. I have plenty of running capris and I tights I love but I can’t even think about those right now because I am running during the hottest part of the year!

Tom Tom Cardio Runner Watch

 So, I have the Garmin 620 with the heart rate strap. I was all snobby and thought I HAD to have the gold standard of running watches so I got the one with all the bells and whistles. That is like giving a Ferrari to your grandma to drive herself up to Walgreens. A runner like me (read: slow) does not need to have all the Vo2 Max stats, etc, at her fingertips because none of it matters. All I need to know is, how far have I gone, am I staying on pace so I don’t drop dead at mile 10 of an 18 mile run and my heart rate to gauge the potential for dropping dead. The Garmin was not so good at the basics and I only ever ended up looking at the distance on one screen and ignoring all the other stuff. It was also hard to read (maybe, because I don’t have my reading glasses while I am running – getting old sucks) while I was running. I also hated the chest strap because it left a permanent scar on my back from a bad chafing episode last summer so I quit tracking heart rate. Heather has the Tom Tom Multisport because she swims, too, and I liked it. When they came out with the option of a watch that takes your heart rate on your wrist with no need for a strap in the Cardio Runner, I jumped on it. I love this watch. It is easy to use, it is easy to read and it tells me what all I want to know. The heart rate in my wrist seems to be right on with the ranges I used to get from my chest strap monitor. Oh, and you can change out the strap because you know I love color!
Brooks Glycerin 13
I’ve been wearing the Glycerins since version 11. Before that, I was in the GTS when Smurti figured out I did not need stability and switched me over to neutral. I love these shoes.  No other shoes meet my needs like these do. I do like the Saucony Triumphs but they fall into the “like” category and not the “love”. I rotate my Glycerins with the Triumphs every few runs. I love these shoes because they are cushiony but I can still feel the ground. The toe box is not overly narrow and there are no seams to create friction on my toes. I also think Brooks stepped up their design game and really outdid themselves with these Aurora colorways.
Skratch Hydration
Everyone knows I struggled last year with stomach issues in the heat with runner food. I’ve tried lots and lots of things but what I really love about Skratch is that I don’t get flavor overload. Gatorade and even Tailwind can be overpowering in their flavors. After a long time running in the heat, you don’t want to taste anything overly sweet, anymore. Skratch is made from real dried fruit that is ground into a powder with added electrolytes and a very mild, natural flavor. I prefer the Orange flavor while Heather likes the Pineapple. I have used these for the past 4 long runs and have not felt sick at all.
Honey Stinger Gels
These are the ONLY gels I can tolerate. They are made from real honey and don’t make my stomach rebel. The texture is also completely different (just like honey) so I can actually get them down (unlike GU, which makes me gag). I like the Gold (plain honey) flavor but the Acai Pomegranate are my favorite.
BASE Electrolyte Salt
I discovered this at Ironman 70.3 Expo. I am a salty sweater with an chronic electrolyte deficiency. I used to take salt tablets but I had to plan ahead and, once I felt sick, I did not want to swallow them. This stuff is great because you just put it on your tongue and it dissolves, immediately. I have not had a low electrolyte episode since using this while out on the run.